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McHenry County judge orders names of coronavirus patients to be shared with law enforcement to protect officers

The County Health Department offered to share individual addresses but felt officers might have a false sense of security and let their guards down if they knew the names of coronavirus patients.

McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim won a court battle seeking to learn the names of coronavirus patients and share the information, if necessary, with police officers responding to calls.
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A McHenry County judge on Friday ordered county health officials to disclose the names of coronavirus patients to law enforcement.

Under the judge’s order, the county Health Department must share the names with 911 dispatchers within 24-hours of being notified. Any names received must remain confidential and are to be purged seven days after the Health Department deems a person no longer contagious.

“It’s critical that law enforcement receive this information in a timely fashion so we can keep our officers healthy in order to continue providing the best possible service to our communities,” McHenry County Sheriff Prim said in a statement issued Monday.

The McHenry County state’s attorney’s office filed a lawsuit on behalf of Prim last week seeking the release of the information. Four other municipal police departments soon added their names to the suit.

The Health Department had agreed to share the addresses of infected individuals but not their names.

“MCDH believes that having the names of these patients will actually confer a false sense of security to the police, and that they should be taking extra protective steps with all people they encounter, including with colleagues,” the Health Department said in a statement.

Before seeking litigation, Prim asked for the names and addresses of coronavirus patients to be shared 911 dispatchers with the caveat that the information would only be available to officers, on a call-by-call basis, who are dispatched or responding to situations that involve affected individuals.

The request was denied despite direction from federal and state officials that the disclosure was permissible, McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said in a statement.

“This was a no-brainer for the Health Department, a common-sense, confidential, and entirely lawful way they could have worked collaboratively with police departments to assist in enhancing the safety of officers and the community in these dangerous times, and they strangely refused,” Kenneally said.